Kelly the Culinarian: December 2012

Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012

Rich and Fudgy Quinoa Brownies Recipe
Ah, another year gone! I can't believe how fast time flies.  Here are a few of my favorite posts from the year.

Favorite Healthy Recipes

Favorite Crock Pot Recipes

Favorite Decadent Recipes

Favorite Trips

South Korea
Tower Tri
Favorite Triathlon

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Goals: How did it go?

Well, it was a mixed bag.  I shot some of these out of the park, whereas others were non-starters. Let's take a look.
1. Run my first marathon. Done. I ran the Fox Valley Marathon, then helped Jenny reach her goals at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.
2. Complete my first triathlon. Done! Not only did I finish the Leaning Tower Tri in Niles, I won my age group.
3. Set a personal record for the 5K. Done! I ran a 24:10 5K in training, and finished the Karhu 5K in 25:53, winning my age group.
Holy pasty skin
4. Volunteer at a race. Done. I volunteered at a community race and the Soldier Field 10 miler.
5. Take a swim class. Done. My swim lesson was some of the best money I spent on myself in 2012 (along with my IUD and laser hair removal, if I'm going to get really honest).
6. Try vegetarianism for a month. Done. While it wasn't difficult to be a vegetarian and I stuck with it for longer than a month, I eventually decided it wasn't really working for me. I could go without meat indefinitely, but I feel better when I'm eating meat.
7. Read a few books. Eh. I guess I read more this year than I did last year, but I could have done better. Now that I have a Kindle, I anticipate reading even more in the next year.
8. Achieve my goal weight of 124 by March 31. Ha, nope. I totally didn't reach my goal weight. In fact, I'm further from my goal weight now than I was this time last year.  Like lots of people, I gained weight while training for the marathon. I'm working on getting rid of it, and being OK with the weight gain in the mean time.
9. Try one new recipe per month. I could have done better at this. But, the recipes I did get together were pretty awesome. My dark chocolate amaranth cookie recipe is still one of my highest-rated posts, and I also found the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. My vegetarian black bean and sweet potato soup is also a hearty meal that I love.
10. Send out holiday cards. Fail. We got a family photo taken for said cards, but I never got this together. I'm going to blame this on the fact that we went on vacation right before Christmas. Better luck next year ... 
11. Grow the Fort2Base ambassador program. Done! This year, I worked with nine amazing ambassadors who helped spread the word about this kick-ass race. I am, however, looking for more ambassadors for 2013. E-mail me if you're interested!
12. Save more money. Sure, I suppose I did this, sort of. I should have been more specific about this.  

So I didn't get it all done this year, and that's OK.  Goal setting is a great exercise, even if I'm not achieving everything.  I feel it's important to stretch myself. I am annoyed that I've moved further from my goal weight, but life's too short to have fruit for dessert. There's always 2013 ... 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Restaurant Review and Giveaway: Protein Bar

Catering manager Joanna, me and marketer extraordinaire Analisa
I'm so excited to share this restaurant review! When I joined my gym, it was in an almost-empty strip mall. Over the past few months, I've watched a few things get added, but nothing that really boiled my coffee. When I spied a new business setting up shop right next to the gym (and thus, across the street from my work), I couldn't help but take note. As soon as Protein Bar put up a little "coming soon" sign, I started e-mailing the owners asking when I could start eating.

Today was the day! After brisk workout, I walked right on over to Protein Bar and ate an amazing sampling of the best the joint has to offer. All I can say is that I'm really sad I don't work across the street anymore because they actually have food I want to eat and coffee worth walking over for. However, it's probably for the best, because I would never pack a lunch again.

I started with breakfast entrees: the pancake in a bowl oatmeal topped with bananas and the Santa Fe scramble.  The oatmeal was interesting because unlike McDonald's or Starbucks, the oats are cooked al dente, so you get a better texture.  The fruit also changes with what's available seasonally. The scramble was mighty tasty, and I thought would be something I'd love to eat after lifting at the gym. When I got home, Tim loved the leftover eggs because they were nice and spicy.

We moved on to lunch entrees, which featured some of my favorite dishes of the day. I had the spinach pesto quinoa along with a buffalo chicken bar-rito.  The burrito was clearly my favorite as I ate half of it in mere seconds.  The buffalo sauce is actually vegan, and the burrito was packed with the Super 6 Salad Mix. I like it because it was spicy, the chicken was filling, the quinoa was cooked perfectly and the salad mix was crunchy.  The pesto bowl was equally awesome, featuring a very cheesy sauce with fresh baby spinach. Best part? All of these dishes were between 280 and 550 calories, making it a very manageable option for a healthy breakfast or lunch.

I rounded out my breakfast with a protein shake that has changed my life.  Seriously.  It's healthy, protein-packed and caffeinated.  And chocolate. My life is complete, people.  There are tons of protein and shake options (and they all have really cute Chicago-themed names), but I went with the Millennium Perk. It featured chocolate protein powder, espresso protein, your choice of milk and house-made cocoa malt.  It was so creamy and rich, I would have never thought it was healthy and one of the lowest-calorie options on the menu.

I appreciate that this place offers a variety of flavors and comfort meals with a lower calorie profile. In addition to great food, I also like that they offer vegan and gluten-free options, since I'd like to be able to have a great meal with my friends who have dietary needs (Kim and Alissa, I'm looking at you).

Because I pink-puffy heart this place, I want to share it with all of you.  I have giftcards for a complimentary lunch as well as a blended drink of your choice.  To enter, leave a comment about your favorite healthy lunch. I'll use to select a winner on 6 p.m. Monday.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Three Things Thursday

1. MacKenna and I are in this month's Chicago Athlete magazine! It's a super cute photo of us from the Venus de Miles Ride.
2. I met up with Irina tonight at Protein Bar, which is opening at 11 a.m. tomorrow in Oak Brook. The first 100 people through the door will get a free bar-rito, so it sounds like it will be quite the shin dig.
3. The winner of the FlipBelt is Manda! You have until 6 p.m. Friday to contact me for your prize. After that, I'll have to select another winner.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Guest Post: Jenny's A to Z of Running

I'm still digging myself out from being on vacation and Jenny was kind enough to write a second post for me. Fun fact: Brits say the letter "Z" as "zed."  That is all ... 

My A-Z of running

Check it out, guest blog number 2!!! Squeeaal! So I was struggling to think of a topic to write about and after much deliberation I’ve decided to share my own A-Z of running and here it is…..Enjoy!

A is for Almost There! This is the really funny and witty expression NON-runners like to yell at you at mile 1 of 26. It’s not funny at mile 1, 3 or 5. Nor is it funny 1.5 miles from the finish line!
B is for Bling. I don’t like races where you don’t receive a medal because I am a medal whore. So I am forced to run long in order to receive a disc on a ribbon(yum). Also see Medal.
C is for Course. I have a policy not to look at the course before the race; I don’t want to be scared off by knowing there’s hero hill at miles 2,3 and 10. My motto is ignorance is bliss.
D is for Downhill. This is the direction I prefer to run.
E is for Expo. Man can Kelly work an expo. Discounted race gear, freebies, races to sign up for….love love love an expo and my favorite this year was the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon Expo – fun times.
F is for Freebies. Mel Diab at Running for Kicks always gives away the best freebies in his race bags. Love it!
G is for Gu. I hate the slimy stuff. I understand it helps and I force one down every 5 miles or hour whichever comes first(hour). But I really really really can’t stand them!
H is for Heat wave. This year I chose to run the Chicago Marathon which meant training through the summer heat wave. It totally sucked!
I is for Ice. I usually ice at some point in the day anyway, but I also make sure I ice after a run J
J is Jelly Beans. Another way to achieve the sugar rush high at mile 14. I like Caffeine free sports beans otherwise I cant sleep if I drink caffeine no matter how shattered I am.
K is for Kelly. An awesome friend who helped pace me at the Indy Marathon. If you need a pacer she is reasonably priced. Contact her agent first though (me and I take 12 percent).
L is for Laces. I recently tried some laces, which you didn’t have to tie. Hated them!!
M is for Medal.  I love medals so much I thought they deserved two mentions J Also see Bling.
N is for Neutral. I’m lucky that I can wear a neutral shoe and my favorite shoes are the Mizuno Wave Riders. I love the big toe box and the designs are usually stylish and girl friendly J
O is for OhMyGod are we there yet. This is usually my mantra 2 miles from the finish.
P is for Poop. Mile 2 usually ;-)
Q is for Queen. I’m pretty certain the Queen in England doesn’t run.
R is for Race. If there’s a race I’m usually there and wearing a tutu J
S is for Skittles. Kelly kindly fed me Skittles at the Indy marathon, which were a huge boost. I enjoy sugar rushes just as much as the next person! J
T is for Tights. I do not look attractive in running tights. Some runners look amazing in theirs and I’m really jealous!!!!
U is for Umbrella. I went to a rainy race recently and was thinking how hard it must be to run with an umbrella. hmm
V is for Vegetables. I need to eat more, then I'll lose weight and run faster!
W is for Walking. I seem to gas out at mile 7, which is a bit of a concern if I am running a half marathon, or further. If I start to walk at this point there’s no way in h*ll Ill start running again.
X is for Xylophone.  I used to have one when I was little I miss it!
Y is for Yoyo dieting. What can I tell ya? One day I like chips the next I like chocolate! That’s my yoyo diet.
Z is for Zebra crossing. In England we call the pedestrian path to cross the road a zebra crossing. This is because it has black and white stripes on the ground and not because we have free-range zebras roaming England! At least not when I lived there!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012!

From my family to yours! Guess we should have closed that closet, first.

Last night, we drove to my mom's house and got reunited with our puppy baby.  He was sort of OK with us returning.  We opened gifts and had an amazing dinner prepared by my ever-talented mother. Napoleon supervised.
We also enjoyed some pretty awesome liquor-filled chocolates. A match made in heaven.
We had a great time hanging out and swapping stories.
My favorite gift every year is a box my mom puts together with our memories and mementos  This year, my memory box included my dad's report cards from kindergarten through eighth grade. My sister got his offer letter from his first employer. This photo was taken the day my mom found out she was pregnant with me
Today, we visited with Tim's family. Santa even showed up to help my niece, Chloe, open her presents! It's a shame Tim had to run to the store and miss meeting Santa.
And now, we're having a lovely evening back at home. Napoleon really loves this blanket that my mom gave Tim. He's also really digging this dinosaur dental chew my mom got him for Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

December to Remember Giveaway: FlipBelt

As my homecoming gift to you, the December to Remember Giveaway series also returns!  While New Year's Eve (and resolutions) are right around the corner, there's no time like the present to get started on a lifestyle shift (says the girl who had chocolate every day on vacation). One of my favorite blogs is Runs for Cookies. Katie lost more than 100 pounds and her post about starting now, rather than waiting for after the holidays, Monday, etc., really struck a cord with me.

This giveaway is a fun health-related product to help you get outside.  Runners should always carry ID, emergency cash and a cell phone, and FlipBelt is all about keeping you safe while you're getting your groove on. From FlipBelt's Web site:

No need to fumble with fasteners while you’re active, you don’t have to wear a fanny pack or armband... just slip your phone & items in/out of the pocket openings & slide them anywhere you want. Flip belt inward to securely lock in your items... It’s so easy & looks great.

The winner of this giveaway will get their choice of FlipBelt because there's a ton to choose from. This giveaway will end at 6 p.m. Dec. 27 and the winner will be selected using To enter:

1. Go to the FlipBelt Web site and leave a comment about what belt you like the best.
2. For a bonus entry, like Kelly the Culinarian on Facebook and leave a separate comment.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

We're back!

After a fantastic eight days at seas and some lovely guest posts, I'm back home and ready to rock!  For those who asked, we spent a glorious week+ on the Carnival Freedom leaving from Fort Lauderdale.

We arrived on ship and checked out our accommodations.

And ate. Often.
We stopped in St. Thomas, where we walked around, shopped and ate.
Next up was Antigua, which was probably my favorite port.  We asked the cabbie to take us to a beach. For $12, he took us to Runaway Bay, where we were basically by ourselves for the morning. It was like having a private beach.

We also discovered a lovely local brew, Carib. It was quite tasty and cheaper than the weak, watered down stuff on the ship.
When we got to Tortola, I discovered the panoramic function on my camera.  Just in time to capture Cane Bay Beach, which was more of a tourist trap than what we visited in Antigua.  It was still quite enjoyable, but it was just like being on the ship since it was all people from the cruise.
 We got some delicious drinks there: strawberry daiquiris, pina coladas and bushwackers. Note to self: add nutmeg to pina coladas. It makes all the difference. We also spent some time there sightseeing. Tortola was the least touristy of all the spots we stopped, offering a real glimpse into life there.  

We had a few days at sea, too. More panoramic photos ensued.

I got food poisoning or something.  I don't know why I wanted to capture this, but apparently, I did. It was quite horrific, as you can tell from this awesome self portrait. At least I had food poisoning in a beautiful location ... 
We also stopped in Nasua. I don't have any photos, mostly because it's the biggest tourist trap in the world.  Lots of tacky crap to haggle over that we skipped in favor of a remarkable and competitively priced couples massage. It was lovely.

Here are my thoughts: this is my third cruise and Tim and I's second cruise, both of which were on Carnival. Our last cruise was really awesome, but I've noticed Carnival has made a bunch of changes in the name of cost saving that are kind of a bummer.  There are no free drinks anywhere, ever. 

On my last cruises, there was a captain's reception with free drinks as well as a return guest reception with complimentary beverages.  Nope. None of it. The only thing we got for our brand loyalty was a coupon for a drink valued at $9.  Our cruise was really cheap, but it did cost more than $18 per couple.

They've also eliminated the midnight buffet, which was really cool. It featured all kinds of carved fruits, ice sculptures and amazing desserts that showcased the real skill and talent of the dining staff. I loved this event because it showed that the staff there is capable of far more than just french fries and pizza. There is chocolate extravaganza, an all-chocolate buffet. We went, and it left a lot of be desired. 
More than anything, the cruise lacked consistency. We both ordered steaks done the same way, and each was cooked to different levels of doneness and with what appeared to be different cuts of meat (it was listed the same on the menu). Our melting chocolate cakes, something I looked forward to with great anticipation, were different every night in terms of flavor and consistency.  It's really all the little things that add up to an experience.

I can't help but think that some of these cost-cutting changes contributed to me getting sick. I remember last cruise they were very diligent about keeping food away from dirty plates, going as far as having a separate crew clearing tables and taking away used items. That's been eliminated and I'm sure cross contamination played a role in my illness. I saw a plate of little ketchup ramekins being placed on the same tray as dirty dishes.  I watched the waiters clear tables, change linens and then serve up fresh plates without washing their hands.

Not cool.

We will cruise again, just probably not on the same line. I hope other cruise lines have melting chocolate cakes, too.